2020 in books

This was a huge reading year for me: 113 books and counting. I will probably finish a few more books before the New Year, but I will attribute those reviews to my 2021 wrap-up!

Check out my 2019 in Books for my last year’s picks too!

This post will include:

  • GoodRead stats
  • My stats
  • My top ten books
  • My bottom ten books
  • DNFs, or “Did Not Finish”

Let’s get into it!

GoodReads stats

Here are my stats courtesy of GoodReads:

My stats

I kept track of a few different data points of how I read my books…

I hope to keep track of even more data points next reading year. I don’t mess with sub-genre because for a lot of these books it’s hard to put it into just one category and I read a huge variety of things.

My top ten books

In no particular order…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (contemporary): This book and series are fan-fucking-tastic. This and Little Fires Everywhere set the bar for domestic quasi-thrillers.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (history/science): I love books/stories that I find where I ask myself, “How is this not talked about more?” (the answer is usually because it involves women, minorities or both). It’s such a fascinating case that laid the groundworks for workers’ rights.

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson (history/adventure): I’m an idiot and somehow didn’t write a review for this book on my blog… but it will be featured in my next reading wrap-up. I’m partial to adventure books, especially sea-faring ones, and this combination of WWII history and scuba diving was everything.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates (feminism): This was such a down-to-earth account of what it’s like to be a woman living in a man’s world.

Endurance by Alfred Lansing (history/adventure): As I mentioned, I’m partial to sea-faring adventure books and this was such an incredible story, Shackleton was an incredible leader.

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick (history/adventure): Okay, one last one. This is the true Moby Dick story and it’s wild. For an overview of what took place, check out Caitlin Doughty’s video on it.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (race): This was the most practical book about race I read this year, breaking down the knowledge by common questions white people have (“Why can’t I say the N-word?” “That’s reverse racism!” etc.).

Normal People by Sally Rooney (contemporary): This was a book I read in late 2019 that didn’t make it into my 2019 in Review. But there are so many YA and adult books out there but this is the first one I found in between, which for me personally was when I developed and changed the most. It’s slow-paced but there is so much development and I felt a huge attachment to the characters.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (science fiction): This was another book I read in late 2019 and damn it was so good. I love a dangling ending and a book that makes me think for ages after. I can’t wait to read more by Crouch.

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (religion): I read this short response book before the original (The End of Faith) and found this easier to read and more enjoyable.

My bottom ten books

For this list, I will not include books I went into with low expectations or hate-read which included:

Now, here are the worst and most disappointing books of the year…

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (historical fiction): Probably my least favorite read of 2020 and it happened to be the very first book I read. On paper, this book should have interested me: nature, legal battle, murder… but I’m sorry I read it, it’s extremely overrated.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (young adult): As a huge fan of the Hunger Games books and movies, I was interested in a prequel but not hugely invested when I found out it was a Snow origin story. My full review reveals exactly in what ways this book disappointed me.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams (sci-fi): These weren’t the worst books I read this year but I enjoyed the first book and hoped the others lived up to it but I can’t say I liked them much. It’s especially disappointing to me because my boyfriend loves these books and I really like Douglas Adams (his humor, other books, atheist thoughts, etc.).

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (romance): My review has a lot of resources from better-qualified people on why this book is grossly problematic. I read it to give the author the benefit of the doubt that the book was different from the movie and unfortunately it wasn’t.

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healy (historical fiction): The story was slow but I held on for the ending only to find out conclusion was just as anticlimactic. The concept was fabulous but it left something to be desired.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (sci-fi): While the premise was interesting enough, I didn’t really care about any of the characters and the plot details didn’t grab me. I felt like the author spent too much time explaining the world and spoon-feeding lessons to the reader and left the plot underdeveloped. In my opinion, Animal Farm and The Alchemist do a better job of having both plot substance and worldly lessons.

Circe by Madeline Miller (fantasy): While again, this wasn’t the worst book I read but I had such high hopes and expectations for this book that it didn’t measure up to.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (feminism): This book is not as advertised and contradictory at points. There are better feminism books out there.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (historical fiction): Nevermind the story isn’t that good (there are plenty of better WWII books out there), the author is not without their controversies.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (contemporary): After Big Little Lies being one of my favorite reads of the year, I reckon I set my expectations too high for her other work.

DNF

Unlike some people, I have no problem putting down a book if I’m not enjoying it. I hate the feeling of taking forever to finish a book, especially knowing there are endless books out there waiting to be properly enjoyed! I probably won’t try to read most of these again, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood for a particular genre. And with the massive amount of books I did read this year there were bound to be a few boogers…

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (non-fiction, sociology): This book didn’t grip me regardless of the topic I would have loved to learn more about.

Does This Mean You’ll See Me Naked? by Robert Webster (non-fiction, death): I felt the author taking the piss out of “funny” situations with corpses such as figuring out a way to get an overweight corpse who evacuated their bowels down 3 flights of stairs, without I assume permission from the families to share (there was nothing at the beginning or end of the book indicting either way)… it felt disrespectful. I’m so used to the lovely Caitlin Doughty’s graceful and dignified way of talking about death and corpses that I couldn’t bear this author.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (fiction, thriller)

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help by Robert Lupton (non-fiction, Christian): I feel like the author was dancing around some issues and justifying his own work along the way.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottleib (non-fiction, memoir): While this book sounded promising, I wasn’t in the right mindset at the time to read about cancer, relationship problems and loss when I picked it up. I’d love to give it another try, though.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (non-fiction): You read that right. I DNF’d this book again. I think in the new year I’ll pick up the graphic novel because the material is something I enjoy but the book can get so dry.

The Red Queen by Matt Ridley (science): I just wasn’t in the mood. I’ll probably give it another try soon.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (young adult): This was a bit too juvenile for me. I know it’s a fairy-tale retelling but I couldn’t bear the abruptness of the beginning bits. Also, I don’t want to start a series I’m not excited to finish.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (historical fiction): I think I tried this audiobook a year ago as well and it just didn’t grip me. A lot of my friends on GoodReads also don’t have a lot of nice things to say so I might give up on this one.

What was your favorite book(s) of 2020? Your least favorites?

Photo by Ed Robertson.

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1 Comment

  1. December 29, 2020 / 3:24 pm

    I love the stats – maybe I should keep track of all those things. What a great year in reading. I definitely agree with you about Where the Crawdads Sing, and also would recommend skipping The Underground Railroad – I listened to it an it wasn’t worth it. Here’s to 2021 reading!

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